The first of Jesus’ trials took place in the dead of night just after He was arrested praying in the garden. This trial was before the Caiaphas the Jewish high priest at the time, and the scribes and elders. The details of the trial are laid out in Matthew 26:57-68.
The verdict of the “trial” was a forgone conclusion. Guilty was the verdict from the start. All they were looking to do was find two false witnesses that were in agreement on something they could charge Jesus with. They brought in many false witnesses, but were in despair because they could not find two who were in agreement about the same falsehood. What a dilemma. They had to find two in agreement. The righteous law of the Lord made clear that on the testimony of two or three witnesses, every fact should be established. They seemed to miss the irony of how much of the law they were ignoring while insisting on keeping this one point. Also lost on them was establishing lies as “facts” by false testimony. The importance of God’s people preserving “justice” was way over their heads.
Finally to their relief they finally found two witnesses to agree on their false testimony. They declared that “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’”
Ah, now they have Him! No one could destroy Herod’s magnificent temple and then rebuild it single-handedly in three days. Even saying that he wanted to destroy the temple would be something they could condemn him both before the Jews and before the Romans. Checkmate.
But what did Jesus really say? When Jesus drove the money changers out of the temple the first time the Jews asked Him, “What sign do you show to us, since You do these things?” Jesus answered them in John 2:19 saying, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
Wow! Do you see the difference? Destroy the temple has no subject. The subject is understood to be “you.” He said, “You (will) destroy the temple (My body, where the Holy Spirit is dwelling).” After you do that, “in three days I will raise it (My body) up.” This was the ultimate sign. He knew that they would reject every sign. They were not looking for “evidence” to be persuaded of the truth. They would make up their minds not by, but in spite of the truth revealed before their eyes.
In this mockery of a trial, Jesus shined the light of truth once again upon their hypocrisy. They would destroy the One who was full of “grace and truth.” They would wrongly condemn and crucify Jesus who is “the way and the truth and the life.” He would once again prove that He is the Christ, the Son of God by rising from the dead.
When Jesus is called to answer these accusations, He keeps silent. You or I would have cried out at the terrible injustice of it all. He saw that there was nothing that He could say that would persuade them to believe in Him which is what they desperately needed. Thus He kept silent.
When the Chief priest put Him under oath by the living God to “tell us if You are the Christ the Son of God,” we have another very interesting picture. Caiaphas was unknowingly calling on Jesus to swear on Himself. Here was the living God standing right before Him. “Through Him all things were created, and without Him nothing was created that has been created.” Swear by yourself Jesus. Are You the Christ the Son of God? Just as “every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,” here too Jesus takes the testimony from Caiaphas’ own mouth. “It is as you say.” Caiaphas put a big “if” in there. Jesus declared it definite fact!
You have to love the persevering love, mercy and grace of God. Jesus is not content to just state the fact of His deity. He now reaches out one more time to give them another chance to see the truth. He tells them “hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Once again after they “destroy the temple” He will raise it up after three days. What did it prove when He arose? It was the ultimate sign to prove who He is. Where did He go after He arose? He ascended into heaven where He is sitting at the Father’s right hand. He will return from there to judge the living and the dead.
You must believe in Me! There is hope nowhere else. There is salvation nowhere else. I must be either the chief cornerstone that you build your life on, or I will be both a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence over which you will trip to your own destruction.
The Jewish leaders chose to reject even this last offer to reconsider. They condemned, mocked, spat on, struck, and crucified their Creator. What a travesty of “justice.” Yet it had to be so because of my sin and your sin. We have fallen short of the glory of God and stand condemned before Him. Yet Jesus in mercy took our place. â€œHe was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.â€ Praise God for a glorious gracious Savior!
Perhaps the saddest part about this whole kangaroo court episode was what framed it. Verse 58 tells us that Peter came and sat in the courtyard “to see the end.” Verse 69 after all this mockery of Jesus as He stood alone before the hypocritical “judges” and lying “witnesses” tells us that “Peter sat outside in the courtyard.”
Peter did not stand up for Jesus. He didn’t call the liars, liars or the judges, hypocrites. When he is now asked if he knows Jesus he denies it vehemently and repeatedly. How sad. Yet we are more often than not sitting outside instead of standing up for Jesus or pointing out who He is, how He fulfilled Scripture, and how He is the only one who can and must save.
It is also true that there is no way that we can do anything other than cower outside like Peter did unless we also are filled with God’s Spirit as Peter later was. We are baptized with the Spirit when we believe in Christ. But we are also commanded to be continually be being filled with the Spirit. We must be filled with Him, and He must control us. Otherwise we too will be sitting silently outside while Jesus is yet another day vilified by the religious and irreligious alike.